a new paper to promote discussion on better use of scientific knowledge in policy

Policymakers today face complex issues, from global pandemics and geopolitical challenges to energy and climate crises. Scientific knowledge can help them better understand the problems and identify and evaluate policy options.

However, linking policy with research is not an easy task. The scientific and policy communities operate in different worlds, with different cultures, values, incentives, languages ​​and time scales. Therefore, to reap the full benefits of science for policy, stronger connections between scientists and policymakers are needed, as well as more frequent and productive interactions.

To promote discussions on better use of scientific evidence and expertise in policy-making within Member States, the JRC and the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD), with the support of the Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM ), developed a Commission Staff Working Document (SWD) on “Supporting and linking Member States’ policy-making with research”. This paper identifies the rationale behind capacity building of science-for-policy ecosystems as well as the challenges encountered at the science-policy interface, while highlighting good practices and the EU tools available to support Member States’ capacity building in the field of the science of politics.

The services working paper as a compass for evidence-based policy development

The paper is a first step to start national and European debates on how to better connect the scientific and policy-making communities. It responds to existing initiatives at both EU and national level to support evidence-based policy-making, from policy changes to research evaluation and knowledge valorisation to increasing organizations in and near government , which seek to mobilize and assimilate scientific input for policy making.

Scientific knowledge helps to understand problems, develop evidence-based policy responses and assess the impact of policy measures. For example, scientific modeling combining the insights of epidemiology, virology and mathematics has helped policymakers predict the spread of COVID-19, as well as determine when to introduce and remove restrictions. Modeling has helped policymakers minimize the burden on health systems, save lives and the burden on the economy, preserve jobs. But COVID-19 has also tested the relationship between the scientific and policy communities and shown that more can be done. Scientific knowledge often does not reach the right policymakers at the right time or in the right format. Likewise, policymakers may not always know how to use the information they receive.

The Commission paper aims to stimulate discussions on linking science to policy-making in EU Member States by setting out the science-for-policy rationale, discussing common challenges and introducing EU support mechanisms. He also emphasizes that policy science is a collective task that must involve all levels of government and all scientific disciplines.

Building capacity for evidence-based policy making in governance and public administration

Evidence-based policymaking requires building and linking capacity for more effective engagement between scientists and policymakers, as well as enhanced policy coordination and collaboration across government departments and levels. Well-designed evidence-based policy-making systems require the existence of knowledge brokers and boundary organizations to create links between research and policy, as well as interconnected networks of ministerial science advisers, knowledge producers and think tanks in the government.

Yet existing systems are often characterized by actor fragmentation and opacity in the functioning of these science-to-policy networks. These problems are compounded by the often insufficient resources for mobilizing and managing knowledge and evidence in public administration and the lack of overall coordination and communication between the various components and actors in the system as a whole.

The JRC, together with the OECD, will work for two years with seven Member States (Greece, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Netherlands) to build the capacity of participating Member States to improve the effectiveness of their public administrations in the provision and absorption of scientific knowledge in policy development. This project is supported by the Technical Support Facility. The multilateral dimension of this project will serve as an opportunity for beneficiaries to benefit from lessons learned in partner countries and benefit from mutual learning and exchange of practices.

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